Of the politicians we care about, 99 percent of them work at the national level. They are our senators, our congressmen and our president. Rarely, if ever, do you hear about anyone at the state level, and almost never at the local level, unless of course it’s Michael Bloomberg or political machine Richard Daley. But there may be at least one other exception.

His name is Gavin Newsom, and until this week, he was the Democratic Party’s golden boy. The suave Newsom, if you don’t remember, fiercely defended same-sex marriage rights way back in 2003 when it was an issue (which it obviously isn’t anymore). This led to his immediate deification among the slightly liberal San Franciscans.

Unfortunately, Newsom woke up on the wrong side of the bed this week. More specifically, he woke up on the wrong bed this week, after admitting to sleeping with his campaign manager’s wife – then, just for kicks, admitting he had an alcohol problem. After all, if alcohol already leads to statutory rape, bigotry and using racial epithets, why not have it lead to adultery?

Yes, poor Newsom’s week, and career, have gone downhill faster than five fat men on a toboggan. And while this particular incident is by no means as grand as a, uh, former president’s “transgressions,” it is a scratch on the face for the Democrats.

Though the acts themselves are nothing mind-blowing, they have opened the door enough to let in more unwelcome allegations – that Newsom is no longer in charge of his city, that the homicide rate among blacks is out of control and that he will not even meet with city supervisors, whether or not they have been longtime allies.

Under the “bigger they are, the harder they fall” orthodoxy, Newsom has just registered on the Richter scale. And I’m deeply disappointed, too. I’d held Newsome in high regard, practically on a pedestal, for taking an affirmative, unwavering stand on one of his beliefs.

But now, like anyone else paying attention to the story (which has been fairly well concealed over here on the uncaring East Coast), I am torn over where I stand. Does he get a second chance? Isn’t that the divine thing to do? Does it really matter? Hell, why should we care at all about something that is really only San Francisco’s problem?

I care because I felt that at least there are some politicians who still stand up for what they believe in, who are good, honest people.

This would be only too great to know as we jump into the 2008 presidential race. I imagine it’s only a matter of days before some secret hiding in the closet of Senator Barack Obama is exposed. I can’t believe there’s much left for Senator Hillary Clinton to be called out for. And who knows about the rest?

Maybe it’s true. Maybe there are no decent politicians. I’d like to think there are. For all I know, my hometown’s mayor will turn out to be a cocaine-addicted mob boss, which I guess would be okay – at least we’d know she’s working through the night.

Brenneman is a member of the class of 2009.

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